Thursday afternoon, President Obama traveled to the University of Nevada Las Vegas to discuss student loans. The president made quite the spectacle, in a campaign-style rally, of urging Congress to action: namely, to stop interest rates on certain federally backed student loans from doubling — from 3.4 to nearly 6.8 percent — on July 1. He also encouraged students to take to Twitter with the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate.
But while Obama blamed Congress (and implicitly, Republicans) for a lack of action, in a preemptive press conference Thursday morning in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner said it was the White House that was unnecessarily politicizing the issue, manufacturing a political fight where there is no policy disagreement. He called on the president to cancel his appearance at UNLV and “work together with Congress on fixing the student-loan issue” instead. This echoed a letter House Republican leaders had sent to Obama the previous day, urging him to forgo the rally and come to the table to discuss “good-faith, workable” solutions. “The House has already passed reasonable, responsible legislation to stop the student-loan rate hike — the Democratic-led Senate has not,” it said.
Maybe the president’s deliberate stalling on loans, and go-to move of blaming Republicans for inaction, made for a good fundraising gimmick. As the Washington Times notes, the speech on student loans at UNLV is Mr. Obama’s only “official business” on a two-day trip that also includes five campaign fundraisers in California. And mixing business with campaigning allows the White House to split the cost of the trip between the president’s reelection campaign and the taxpayers, rather than having his campaign fund pay for the entire trip.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down to July 1.